Kawasaki disease (also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome) is a rare inflammatory disease that affects the blood vessels in the body. Learn how to recognize Kawasaki disease and how it's treated.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a rare, but serious disease in which the blood vessels in the body become inflamed and can become very large. In very bad cases, these enlarged blood vessels (called coronary aneurysms) can prevent enough blood and oxygen from getting to the heart muscle. Kawasaki disease is not contagious (cannot be passed from one person to another). Early diagnosis and treatment is important to lower the chance of long-term damage.

What causes Kawasaki disease?

Doctors are not sure what causes Kawasaki disease. But they do know that Kawasaki disease is not anyone’s fault.

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease often appear in different stages:

Early symptoms

  • High fever that lasts for longer than 5 days and does not go away with medication or other treatment
  • Tongue that appears bright red, swollen and bumpy (also called strawberry tongue)
  • Dry, cracked or peeling lips
  • Very red eyes
  • Rash on stomach, back or genitals

Later symptoms

  • Swelling of the hands or toes
  • Peeling of the fingers or toes
  • Stomach pain or vomiting

When should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor if:

  • Your child’s fever does not get better after 5 days even with treatment
  • Your child has other early symptoms of Kawasaki disease

How do doctors diagnose Kawasaki disease?

To diagnose Kawasaki disease, doctors might use the following tests:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood or urine tests
  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart)

How do doctors treat Kawasaki disease?

The goals of treatment for Kawasaki disease are to lower your child’s fever and lower the amount of swelling in the blood vessels. Treatment often works better the earlier your child gets it.

Treatments typically include:

  • Aspirin to lower your child’s fever and heal the rash
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) to lower the risk of aneurysms (when certain parts of the arteries become larger and weaker than usual)

What follow-up care is needed?

Following successful treatment of Kawasaki disease, your child will have follow up visits with the Pediatric Cardiology team.

Rev. 5/2018